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Ralph Bowen Quartet: A Morning View

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It’s evident that the masterful saxophonist Ralph Bowen spends a lot of time practicing and dealing with the basics of the instrument. His full, focused tone maintains its quality with impeccable intonation throughout all registers and his technical facility approaches perfection. You can follow one of his intricate melodic patterns measure after measure without witnessing a single finger slip. Indeed, he flawlessly navigates the changes of the scorching “Country Rhythm” at a tempo few horn players would even attempt. Happily, Bowen uses his skill for expressive purposes in a well-formed style descended from John Coltrane’s and with a family resemblance to Michael Brecker’s.

Although A Morning View offers the visceral excitement of “Country Rhythm” and others, it also includes more gently swinging fare, like Bowen’s harmonic and metric reworking of “On Green Dolphin Street” (called “On Green”), as well as a ruminative reading of “Polka Dots and Moonbeams.” Bowen’s choice of sterling colleagues contributes to his recording’s success. Pianist Jim Beard, bassist Charles Fambrough and drummer Bill Stewart are all seasoned veterans, with the latter two having appeared on previous recordings with Bowen. The leader composed all the tunes except “Polka Dots” and Oscar Pettiford’s fascinating waltz “Trichotism.” His compositions exhibit a level of inventiveness worthy of his playing.